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By Lisa Wechtenhiser

Once upon a time there was a girl who wanted someone to love her. Really, truly love her and see her soul.

But she felt she wasn’t worthy of that love in some way and always had to jump through hoops and “dance” for it. The more she danced, the more she hoped they’d find her worthy of their time and love.

As it happened, this girl with the desperate need to be loved met someone with a desperate need to be taken care of. Like voracious, can-never-ever-be-filled need.

She danced, oh how she danced, to fill that need so that she’d get his love in return.

And the more she danced, the larger the need got. Almost like she was feeding a monster who could never be satiated.

In time, she found that the work of filling that hole in him took over her life. Her job was in peril, his job was also because they both spent a lot of time on the phone giving (her) and taking (him).

There was nothing more important in her life than taking care of his need.

Because she hoped that once she was able to give enough, he’d return the love that she so desperately wanted.

He gave bits.

Just enough to keep her hoping and wishing and dreaming.

Every time she’d pull back, he’d step up, give her a little bit of affection so that she’d go right back into taking care of him.

When she finally realized that she’d never, ever get what she needed, she decided to stop dancing.

It hurt more than anything she had experienced because she truly loved him and could see his potential. If only she could save him, things would be great. Surely she had that power?

The realization that he didn’t want to be “saved” dawned on her slowly. He was so brutalized by his life that all he could do was chase love and acceptance. He was going to get it any way he could. And if that was with her, fine. If it was with someone else, that’s fine too.

And so she stepped away. The fear that no one would love her was not enough to allow her to destroy her own life in the process.

He tried to pull her back in.

She held strong and saved herself in the process.

Flash forward twenty years. He reappears. Still needy. Still like that monster who can never ever be filled up. Still seeking it from her.

She, however, has grown so much in that time. She’s come to understand her self-worth and chooses not to dance for him any longer. She can see how she’s truly stepped up to change her life and how dipping a toe back into those waters feels like sticking her feet into a fire pit.

There is still a teeny-tiny part of her that wants to help him see his own power, his own potential. She sends him messages inviting him to take responsibility for what’s going on and acknowledging his power to change it.

He’s having none of it.

“This tough love thing you have going on? I’m not a fan” he says.

Of course he’s not.

Because to own that power means to stop looking outside yourself for love and affection and validation. He knows of no other way to get it. He has nothing inside him to give, he thinks. So, he wanders around, getting it where he can and still begging for someone to tell him he’s okay.


She cannot be that person.

She’s realized that no one can tell you that.

YOU have to tell yourself that.

If it comes from another, when that person leaves, so too does the validation.

So too does the love.

And you are left empty and beyond sad.

She’s been there. Too many times to count.

It wasn’t until she brought someone into her life who kept leaving and coming back, leaving and coming back that she finally got it. It took years and years to learn that message, despite countless people telling her that it was so.

Until she experienced it herself, she wasn’t ready.

He’s not ready. And no amount of convincing from her will ever make him so.

That knowledge came a lot faster to her this time around. She knows how to let go with love now.

Comes the Dawn

After a while you learn the subtle difference
Between holding a hand and chaining a soul,
And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning
And company doesn’t mean security,
And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts
And presents aren’t promises,
And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head up and your eyes open
With the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child,
And you learn to build all your roads on today,
Because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans,
And futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.
After a while you learn
That even sunshine burns if you get too much.
So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul,
Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.

And you learn that you really can endure…
That you really are strong,
And you really do have worth.
And you learn and learn…
With every goodbye you learn.

– Veronica A. Shoffstall